State operations director pens letter to Tisch, King, vows ‘aggressive legislative package’ to improve education

In a letter to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and outgoing Education Commissioner John King, Director of State Operations Jim Malatras said that Gov. Cuomo will pursue an “aggressive legislative package” to improve education in his state budget, set to be released in January.

Citing poor graduation and proficiency ratings in ELA and mathematics, Malatras called on Tisch and King to “do the right thing for our students” and reform a broken system.

The primary area of focus for Cuomo will be a familiar one – teachers – specifically the evaluation component. In the letter, Malatras poses a series of 12 questions surrounding teacher evaluations he hopes Tisch and King consider, including how only one percent of teachers are rated ineffective and what financial incentives should the state provide to high-performing teachers.

“Let’s reframe the Albany dialogue from what is politically acceptable to what is the best education program for our future,” Malatras wrote.

In November, Cuomo said he would push for a plan that includes more incentives and sanctions that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”

“The teachers don’t want to do the evaluations and they don’t want to do rigorous evaluations — I get it. I feel exactly opposite.”

Here’s the text from the letter:

Dear Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner King:

As you know, one of most important obligations we have is educating our children. Although over the past four years we have done much to improve public education, we continue to face critical challenges. Although we spend the most per pupil than any other state, we lag behind in graduation rates, only 34.8 percent of our students are proficient in math, 31.4 percent proficient in ELA and only 37.2 percent of our high school students are college ready.

We all can agree that this is simply unacceptable.

Governor Cuomo believes in public education – it can open up unlimited opportunity to our students. But the system must work. Virtually everyone agrees that the system must be reformed and improved.That is why he will pursue an aggressive legislative package to improve public education. Part of the package will be to strengthen one of our most important professions-teaching. While some seek to demonize teachers, Governor Cuomo believes the exact opposite- wanting to reward excellence in teaching and by recruiting the best and brightest into the profession.

As you know, the Governor has little power over education, which is governed by the Board of Regents. The Governor’s power is through the budget process and he intends to introduce the reforms during that process.

Over the recent campaign Governor Cuomo spoke to New Yorkers all across the state that had many questions about why we’ve fallen behind and what we could do to fundamentally improve public education. Therefore, we’ d ask that you consider the following questions Governor Cuomo heard from New Yorkers to help start addressing some of these critical issues in education.

We understand that change is difficult and that there are political realities, but please give your opinion without political filters or consideration of the power of special interests and respond on what you think is best as a pure matter of policy. Leave the political maneuvers to the legislative process so at least the conversation is informed and the public sees what enlightened policy would do.

So, let’s reframe the Albany dialogue from what is politically acceptable to what is the best education program for our future. In essence, what is the right thing to do for our students

1. How is the current teacher evaluation system credible when only one percent of teachers are rated ineffective? The NYC system was negotiated by Commissioner King directly and no one claims it is an accurate reflection of the reality of the state of education in NYC. What should the percentages be between classroom observations (i.e. subjective measures) and state assessments, including state tests (i.e. objective measures)? What percent should be set in law versus collectively bargained? Currently, the scoring ·bands and “curve” are set locally for the 60 percent subjective measures. What should the scoring bands be for the subjective measure and should the state set a standard scoring band? In general, how would you change the law to construct a rigorous state-of-the-art teacher evaluation system?

2. How would you address the problem of removing poor-performing educators when the current 3020-a process makes it virtually impossible to do so? Likewise, how would you change the system in New York City where poor-performing educators, with disciplinary problems, continue to be paid in the absent teacher reserve pool as opposed to being terminated?

3. What changes would you make to the teacher training and certification process to make it more rigorous to ensure we recruit the best and brightest teachers? Do you agree that there should be a one-time competency test for all teachers currently in the system? What should be done to improve teaching education programs across the state?

4. What financial or other incentives would you provide to high-performing teachers and would you empower administrators to make those decisions?

5. Do you think the length of a teacher’s probationary period should be extended and should the state create a program whereby teachers have to be recertified every several years, like lawyers and other professions? What other changes would you propose to the probationary period before a teacher is granted tenure?

6. What steps would you take to dramatically improve priority or struggling schools schools that condemn generation of kids to poor educations and thus poor life prospects? Specifically what should we do about the deplorable conditions of the education system in Buffalo?

7. What is your vision for charter schools? As you know, in New York City the current charter cap is close to being reached, so would you increase the charter school cap? To what? What other reforms would you make to improve charter schools’ ability to serve all students?

8. Do you support using technology to improve public education, like offering online AP courses by college faculty to high schools students who do not have any such courses now, even though these changes have been resisted by education special interests?

9. What would you do about mayoral control in NYC and do you support mayoral control in other municipalities? What changes and improvements would you make to NYC Mayoral control?

10. There are approximately 700 school districts in New York many of which have declining enrollment. Do you think we should restructure the current system through mergers, consolidations or regionalization? If so, how would you do it?

11. As you know, the appointment and selection process of the Board of Regents is unique in that, unlike other agencies, selections and appointments are made by the Legislature. Would you make changes to the selection and appointment process? If so, what are they?

12. Chancellor, the Board of Regents is about to replace Dr. King; can we design an open and transparent selection process so parents, teachers and legislators have a voice?

Several weeks ago Governor Cuomo said that improving education is thwarted by the monopoly of the education bureaucracy. The education bureaucracy’s mission is to sustain the bureaucracy and the status quo and therefore it is often the enemy of change. The result is the current system perpetuates the bureaucracy but, fails our students in many ways.

Tackling these questions with bold policy and leadership could truly transform public education and finally have it focus on the student as opposed to the bureaucracy.

With Commissioner King’s imminent departure we hope he can give us his best advice now free from external pressure before his departure. I’ve worked closely with Dr. King over the past several years and I want to wish him much success in his new endeavor. On behalf of Governor Cuomo, I look forward to hearing your responses by December 31 so they can be considered in the Governor’s State of the State address.

Sincerely,

Jim Malatras
Director of State Operations

 

John King stepping down, to join Obama administration

State education commissioner John King will be stepping down at the end of the year to serve as a senior adviser to U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan.

“I’m humbled and honored to have the chance to work with President Obama and Secretary Duncan,” King said in a statement. “Their extraordinary leadership is helping students all across the nation get better prepared for college and careers. I’m excited to become part of that team.”

In a statement, Duncan called King an “extraordinary leader.”

“His passion, his fierce intelligence, and his clear understanding of the difficult but vital work of education change will be an enormous benefit to this Department and to the nation,” Duncan said.

King has served as education commissioner since he was appointed by the Board of Regents in May 2011. He oversaw the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards, an implementation that was often criticized by parents, teachers and state leaders, including Gov. Cuomo.

“In classrooms all across the state, teachers and students are rising to the challenge of higher standards,” Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said. “The positive impact of John King’s work in New York will be felt for generations. We’ll miss his wisdom, his calm leadership and his remarkable courage.”

The Board of Regents is moving quickly to identify King’s replacement. A search committee will commence next week, according to Tisch.

In the interim, state law requires the executive deputy commissioner, Elizabeth Berlin, to fill the position until a permanent commissioner is named.

Update (8:00 a.m.): According to Jessica Bakeman of Capital New York, executive deputy commissioner, Elizabeth Berlin will share responsibilities of commissioner’s position with deputy commissioner Ken Wagner. SED declined to explain why Berlin will be sharing responsibilities, rather than assuming them herself.

 

Get out and vote today

Ballot being slipped into voting boxAfter months of political attack ads, debates and candidate promises, Election Day is here.

When New York voters head to the polls today, in addition to candidates for office, they will decide on a $2 billion Smart Schools bond referendum that, if approved, would provide each school district with funding for new educational technology and infrastructure improvements that could also include classroom space for prekindergarten programs.

Each school district would receive an allocation of the $2 billion Smart Schools that is proportionate to the district’s share of total formula based school aid in the 2013-14 school year, excluding Building Aid, Universal Prekindergarten Aid, and the Gap Elimination Adjustment. For example, if a district receives 2.0% of total State school aid, the school district’s Smart Schools allocation would be $40 million (.02 * $2,000,000,000). You can click here for a calculator of how much your school district would be eligible to receive.

If you haven’t educated yourself on the issues, take the time to do so. An educated voter is a democracy’s best citizen. We here at Ed Speaks encourage you to vote and exercise your civic duty. People tend to forego voting in the midterm elections. Let’s change that today. Polls are open until 9:00 p.m. tonight.

Cuomo hears from critics over ‘monopolies’ comment

Governor Cuomo at table with daughter working on homeworkEarlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to break up “one of the only remaining public monopolies”, and push for a new round of teacher evaluations.

Cuomo also said that better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revamp an underachieving public school system.

Now his critics are firing back.

The Working Families Party, the Alliance for Quality Education, and the two candidates vying for the gubernatorial nod with Cuomo – Republican candidate Rob Astorino and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins – all took their shots at the Governor.

Working Families Party Response

“Gov. Cuomo is wrong on this one. His proposed policies on public education will weaken, not strengthen our public education system, and they would represent a step away from the principle of high quality public education for all students. High stakes testing and competition are not the answer. Investment in the future is the answer, and that means progressive taxation and adequate resources for our schools.

We endorsed the governor because of his commitments to raise the minimum wage, fight for public financing of elections, the full Women’s Equality Act, the DREAM Act, and decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. But we’ll never hesitate to criticize him when he’s wrong, as he is on this issue. A vote on the WFP line for Governor is a vote to get those crucial progressive policies passed and to strengthen the WFP.”

The Alliance for Quality Education Response

The Alliance for Quality Education’s designated Champions of Education in the New York State Senate, Assembly and New York City Council joined in the chorus of community and school superintendent responses to Gov. Cuomo’s vow on Tuesday to break the public schools “monopolies” and replace them with more privately-run charter schools.

“I find it unacceptable that Governor Cuomo would further disempower and denigrate our public schools,” said State Senator Bill Perkins. “Saying that there should be more competition among schools—to break a so-called public monopoly—is his way of imposing heedless private business practices on these august institutions that have served our citizens well for more than a century. Furthermore, charter schools perpetuate a system of educational inequality and have ushered in a new generation of separate but unequal outcomes in education. Governor Cuomo’s own words—sadly, lead us to believe that profit and privatization is more important to him than serving every child in the state with excellence.”

“It is troubling to read that the Governor, just days before the election, is blaming teachers again, and is now slamming the ‘public’ in public education in favor of increased privatization via charter schools,” Assembly member Patricia Fahy said. “By definition, public schools serve all children, including all those who cycle in and out of charter and other private schools. While accountability is essential among all teachers and in all schools, slamming a bedrock institution of our state and country – public education – while ignoring so many root causes of school failure – is simplistic at best and not constructive to moving the needle on improving education opportunities for all.”

“The Governor’s recent comments about the state of education and calling it a ‘public Monopoly’ has me gravely concern,” said Assembly member Walter Mosley. “Education is a public good, not a public monopoly. It must be treated as such, regardless of one’s family income or status, public education must be treated with a proper level of respect and regard to the general welfare of our society.”

“As a father and grandfather whose children have attended our public schools, investment in public education and support for public schools is critical. This is not the time to attack public schools but to strengthen them,” said Assembly member Felix W. Ortiz. “I pledge to fight for more state aid to public schools next year. Our future is at stake.”

“I am not surprised that Governor Cuomo supports attempts to privatize schools to benefit hedge fund billionaires,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “These Wall Street fat cats may raise him the most money but public education isn’t a business. If Governor Cuomo actually spent time in the NYC public schools, he would learn that there is no independent assessment that says that charter schools perform better than public schools. He should do something constructive for public education for a change. He should demand that charter schools are held accountable. He should stop charter schools from evading public oversight despite receiving millions in taxpayer money. He should stop charter schools from failing to properly educate English language learners and special education students. And he should seek to end problematic conflicts of interest between charter school board members and business interests.”

Rob Astorino’s Response

“New York public school teachers deserve respect for their day-in-and-day-out dedication to our children. I know, I have three young children in public schools; I went to public schools, and I served as an elected public school board member. My wife Sheila is a special ed teacher.

Mr. Cuomo’s adversarial stance toward teachers borders on disdain. I simply cannot understand it. All I can say is that, as governor, I will treat you, as teachers, with the respect you deserve as educational professionals, and with which I treat all public servants. We may not always agree on everything, but our goals will remain the same:

Strengthening New York’s public school system to better prepare the children we love for the future.

I am deeply committed to public schools in New York, as is my running mate Sheriff Chris Moss. Public schools are in my blood. I am also a card carrying union member, so I understand the need for and benefits of collective bargaining.

I have heard your concerns over charter schools, and I agree that accountability within them is a must. I have supported charter schools in New York’s inner cities, but I recognize that better public schools must ultimately be the answer to New York’s education challenges.

Governor Cuomo has taken millions of dollars from charter school backers and has no interest in accountability.

As a parent, first and foremost, I am committed to getting rid of Common Core in New York, and as governor, I will pull New York from the program. No K-12 teachers were involved in writing the developmentally inappropriate experimental standards; they were conceived in secrecy and never tested, and the math and English content experts on the validation committee both refused to endorse the standards saying they were of “poor quality.” We’ll replace it with better standards set by New York education experts with input from teachers and parents. And through the same approach, we’ll develop proper assessments for our students, teachers, and schools, of which testing will only be one piece of the puzzle. Our teachers are not test-giving automatons and our children are not guinea pigs. Each deserve better, and they’ll get it under my administration.

I have twice been elected by wide margins in a 2-1 Democratic county. That happened because I am willing to listen and to reach out to everyone, in a respectful manner, to find common solutions. I stand on principle, but I also understand that compromise and good will are how we move forward together as a society.

I would be honored to have your support on Tuesday. I promise you’ll have a respectful governor in me, willing to work with you honestly and constructively to protect and better New York’s public schools.”

Howie Hawkins’ Response

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said that Cuomo’s recent description of schools as the “last public monopoly” is just the latest episode in his ongoing attacks on public education and teachers.

“Andrew Cuomo is turning New York’s schools into the Hunger Games. Andrew Cuomo pushes a game of competitive grants, charter schools, and high-stakes testing. This type of competition leaves a lot of losers. If the Governor wants to break a monopoly, he should break Pearson’s monopoly on testing.”

“What is Cuomo going to attack after he breaks the schools and teachers? Break up the police and fire departments? Have competing companies to deliver drinking water?” asked Hawkins.

Hawkins noted that under Cuomo funding for education has fallen to the lowest percentage of the state budget in 65 years, with a $9 billion cumulative shortfall from what the courts have ordered. He has also enacted tax caps to undermine the ability of local schools districts to make up for the state’s funding shortfall.

Cuomo has also led a drive to privatize the schools, favoring charter schools and promoting high stakes testing, both of which increase profits for his campaign contributors. Last week he vowed to challenge public school teachers by supporting stricter teacher evaluations and competition from charter schools.

“A governor who treats public education as some corporate entity, who shows no support for public education doesn’t deserve a second term. The remarks made clear that Cuomo is an enemy of our public education system. And that he wants to break it,” added Hawkins.

Hawkins said that Cuomo’s recent statement was part of a pattern of increasingly erratic behavior by Cuomo in the closing days of the campaign, starting with his mishandling of the Ebola epidemic. Cuomo earlier today dismissed the Moreland Commission scandal as “political baloney.”

“One has to wonder why a party like the WFP wants you to vote for a candidate that attacks workers and education, opposes making the rich pay their fair share of taxes, waffles on fracking, does photo ops in war zones during his campaign, and doesn’t support universal single payer health care,” commented Hawkins.

Hawkins has been endorsed by a wide range of teachers union and educators, include Diane Ravitch; Nassau County’s East Williston Teachers’ Association; northern Westchester County’s Lakeland Federation of Teachers; Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, Valley Central Teachers Association, Buffalo Teachers Federation, The Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers.; New York Badass Teacher Association, United Opt Out Independent Community of Educators, Independent Commission on Public Education (ICOPE), and Coalition for Public Education.

Cuomo vows to break up school ‘monopoly’ if re-elected

Gov. CuomoAt a Daily News editorial board meeting earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to break up “one of the only remaining public monopolies,” and push for a new round of teacher evaluations should he be re-elected.

Cuomo said better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revitalize an underachieving public school system.

“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly,” he said.

On the topic of teacher evaluations, Cuomo said he would push for a plan that includes more incentives and sanctions that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”

“The teachers don’t want to do the evaluations and they don’t want to do rigorous evaluations — I get it. I feel exactly opposite.”

Predictably, the teachers unions fired back. Karen Magee, president of New York State United Teachers, called Cuomo’s comments “an unfortunate distraction” from addressing the real issues plaguing education, like poverty and fair funding.

“Public education is not a monopoly,” NYSUT President Karen Magee said. “It is the centerpiece of our democracy and what makes our nation great. Reclaiming the promise of public education should be our singular focus.”

“Gov. Cuomo has laid clear plans to expand his frontal assault on our public schools through high stakes testing, starving our public schools and privatization,” executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education Billy Easton said. “It’s not that shocking when you look at the enormous pile of cash he has raked in from the Wall Street billionaires who are investing in charter schools. He is rewarding his financial backers at a devastating cost to our children.”

Two years ago, Cuomo successfully backed a new evaluation system tying teacher performance to the Common Core Learning Standards testing results. Due to a sloppy roll out though, the implementation for some of those standards was delayed for two years.

“If you said Common Core testing was premature for students and you just halted the grades on the transcript, then what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teachers’ evaluations and what should be done?” Cuomo said at the time.

Just this month, Cuomo launched an ad campaign centered around education, that featured him sitting at his kitchen table helping his daughter Michaela with her homework. In the commercial, Cuomo calls for a five-year moratorium on using Common Core test scores. Just a few weeks later, he’s calling for tougher teacher evaluations and promoting charter schools.

With less than a week to go before Election Day, both Cuomo, and his gubernatorial challenger, Rob Astorino, seem to be turning up the heat on the issue of education.

Friday Rundown: 10.10.14

Good morning and let us be among the first to wish you a happy Columbus Day Weekend. In the news this week: NYSUT, Common Core in relation to improving SAT scores and inadequate funding for upstate schools. If you missed anything, we have you covered. Here’s your Rundown.

In Common Core transition, N.Y. looks to Kentucky (Capital New York)

Pearson’s wrong answer — and why it matters in the high-stakes testing era (Washington Post)

Schools in ‘limbo’ as Cuomo ponders evaluation bill (Capital New York)

Tisch, school groups lukewarm to Cuomo bond proposal (Capital New York)

NYSUT gets permission to intervene in tenure case (Capitol Confidential)…Teachers union challenges ‘gag order’ (Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin)

Study on upstate school funding (Albany Times Union)…Statewide #wecantwait education campaign hits home (Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin)

Parents have rights in children’s education (Times Herald Record)

Study: New York preschool push benefits wealthier families first (Washington Post)

Opinion: Regents should OK new path to careers (Utica Observer Dispatch)

SAT scores for Class of 2014 show no improvement (Washington Post)…Tisch: Common Core will boost students’ SAT scores (Capital New York)

Campaign calls on Cuomo to sign bill to allow CPR lessons in schools (WTEN)

Could students benefit from year-round school?

New York state requires 180 instructional days in the classroom. Historically speaking, those 180 days are spread out between the months of September through June, with July and August serving as summer recess.

But, what if a district took those 180 days and spread them out over an entire 12-month calendar year? At one school in West Virginia, administrators, teachers and parents swear by a year-round calendar that has the same number of teaching days as any other school, but spread throughout the year.

WATCH VIDEO: Could students benefit from year-round school? (PBS News)

Friday Rundown 9.5.14

By now, most students across New York state have returned to school. If you were busy and missed anything this week getting the kids ready for school, we’ve got you covered. Here’s this week’s Rundown.

State backing off on Common Core mandates after so many weighed in (Albany Times Union)

Astorino’s plan: Regents overhaul, Common Core replacement, vouchers (Capital New York)

NYSUT fights back in tenure attack (Albany Times Union)

School lunch prices on the rise (Buffalo news)

Opinion: Cuomo must use state surplus to remedy separate and unequal education system (Buffalo News)

Common Core to sink or swim this school year (Journal News)

State Board of Regents plans easier paths to high school graduation (NY Daily News)

View: Smart Schools bond a bad investment (Journal News)

What it actually takes for schools to ‘go digital’ (The Herchinger Report)

Friday Rundown 8.22.14

Happy Friday! It’s one of the last weekends of summer and schools are gearing up to open. The schools receiving Pre-K grant funding have been released just a few weeks before the school year begins. According to recent educational polling, many support common educational standards, but not the Common Core in particular. Some credit this to the poor implementation, funding questions and issues with the standardized tests. Educators are hoping the Pre-K roll out will go more smoothly. Read about this and more in this week’s Friday Rundown stories.

Poll: Common Core support among teachers plummets, with fewer than half supporting it (The Washington Post)

Schools allotted $4M for pre-K programs (Albany Times Union)

Seeking New Start, Finding Steep Cost (New York Times)

Study these schools (New York Daily News)

Comparing PDK and Education Next Polls (Education Next)

Common Core: State pays schools to reduce tests (The Journal News)

Teachout talks education, energy in run vs. Cuomo (Poughkeepsie Journal)

Smart School Act will show it works (Albany Times Union)

Newest Schenectady graduates used summer school as ‘life lesson’ (Daily Gazette)

Obama’s Learning Curve (Wall Street Journal)

Letter: Laptops top list of schools’ needs (The Journal News)

A shocking statistic about the quality of education research (The Washington Post)

NY ‘fixed’ Common Core tests — and scores surged (New York Post)

Friday Rundown 8.15.14

The back to school season has many of us thinking about going to bed earlier, shopping for school supplies, studying and textbooks. Reporters are evidently thinking the same, in addition to pension costs, budgets and the newly released 3-8 test scores. For more information, check out these stories from this week’s Friday Rundown.

Release of Grades 3-8 Assessment Scores

N.Y. school pension costs will rise 7.8% (The Journal News)

Not Everyone Has the Tools to Become Rich: How Our Childhood Shapes Our Ability to Succeed (Huffington Post)

SUNY project helps top teachers master skills to benefit students (Middletown Times Herald Record)

Private contractors cut school costs (Times Union)

Second year of Common Core tests shows math scores inch up, English scores flat (The Journal News)

Language on N.Y. ballots raises concerns again (The Poughkeepsie Journal)

Michelle Rhee Prepares To Leave CEO Job At StudentsFirst, Group She Founded (Huffington Post)

No, third grade is not the year when kids go from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ (Washington Post)

Going broke sending the kids back to school? Average cost of school supplies tops $100 (Today.com – NBC News)

The Teen Who Woke Up Her School (Huffington Post)

Common-Core Math Textbooks to Get Online Ratings (Education Week)